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Explainer: How does the Tory leadership election work?

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Following the UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s resignation, the conservative party is in the process of electing its newest leader. Harbingers’ magazine has created this explainer to outline the most important details of the Conservative leadership contest.

Where are the election rules coming from?

Current rules for election of a Conservative Party leader have been approved by the 1922 Committee.

This is a group of Tory backbenchers in parliament, meaning they hold no office in government. It has an eighteen-member executive committee which is voted for by backbenchers and has a chairman who takes charge of key roles of the committee.

They are responsible for orchestrating the leadership contest. Their role includes choosing the threshold for votes in the early rounds and facilitating the parliamentary ballots.


Picture by: michael_swan | flickr

How will the new UK prime minister be elected?

Eligible candidates must have at least twenty MP backers. The 357 Conservative MPs then voted for their chosen candidate on the 13th July, and any candidate who received fewer than thirty votes was eliminated.

Then held another vote on the 14th July and the candidate with the fewest votes was knocked out. This process was repeated on the 18th, 19th, and 20th July until only two remained.

The last election between the final candidates will be open to members of the wider Conservative Party. These members must have joined earlier than the 3rd June, as this date was prior to Boris Johnson’s resignation on the 7th June.

The Conservative Party has not revealed the exact number of eligible voters but it should be more than 160,000 people. The voting will be done by either postal ballots or online.

Who are the candidates?

There were originally eight candidates (as of the 12th of July), six of which have already been eliminated leaving only Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak (as of the 11th of August).

Liz Truss has been the minister for women and equalities since 2019, and secretary of state for foreign, commonwealth, and development affairs since 2021.

Rishi Sunak was the chancellor of the exchequer from 2020 before his resignation on the 5th July, following disagreements with Boris Johnson over his approach to the economy.

How will they be campaigning?

The candidates will have the opportunity to gain support at twelve hustings around the country.

These are events attended by members of the conservative party in which the candidates will be questioned about their beliefs and policies.

They take place from the 28th July to the 31st August and are streamed online.

Read also:

Are young people the biggest losers of the UK Conservative race? by Isaac Kadas

When will the UK have a new prime minister?

The final ballot closes at 17:00 on the 2nd September and the results will be announced on the 5th September.

In the event of one of the candidates dropping out without them being replaced, the remaining candidate will become prime minister and be announced sooner than planned – as there would be no need for a vote.

Written by:


Grace Whitehouse


Brackley, United Kingdom

Born in 2005 in Banbury, United Kingdom, Grace studies at Magdalen College School in Brackley. She plans to study Mathematics at university.

At Harbingers’ Magazine, she started as a Staff Writer. In 2022, she assumed the role of the Science Section editor.


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